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New Pasco airport concourse, baggage claim ready to open

Guests gather in the new concourse at Tri-Cities Airport during Tuesday’s grand opening ceremony. The concourse and baggage claim area will open for public use on Sept. 10. The improvements are part of the $41.9 million expansion and renovation of the Pasco airport. See a video at www.tricityherald.com.
Guests gather in the new concourse at Tri-Cities Airport during Tuesday’s grand opening ceremony. The concourse and baggage claim area will open for public use on Sept. 10. The improvements are part of the $41.9 million expansion and renovation of the Pasco airport. See a video at www.tricityherald.com. Tri-City Herald

The shining new gateway to the Tri-Cities was unveiled Tuesday.

The first phase of the new Tri-Cities Airport concourse features video screens displaying flight destinations and TVs with weather updates for travelers.

It also has an interactive kiosk sponsored by Visit Tri-Cities to give visitors information about the area.

“This project really reflects our life here in the Tri-Cities,” said Ron Foraker, airport director. “That’s special to all of us and our passengers.”

Also noticeable is the artwork around the concourse. Many of the wall tiles are engraved with works depicting the area’s agriculture, technology, geology and history, including Hanford’s B Reactor, a wheat harvest and a sturgeon.

The 48 drawings were selected from more than 200 submissions, said organizer Nancy Thurston.

“My heart is bursting with joy and happiness that I had a part in bringing art into this building,” she said.

The art even extends to the floor, where the pathway depicts the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The new concourse, which opens to travelers Sept. 10, will house gates 3, 4 and 5.

The existing boarding area will be demolished and replaced with new gates 1 and 2.

It also includes concession areas, more restrooms, a children’s play station, airline check-in areas, Transportation Security Administration offices and a new staircase and elevator.

The $41.9 million project is scheduled to open in January 2017.

“Passengers at the Tri-Cities Airport really will experience similar amenities to what is found at some of our larger metropolitan airports,” Foraker said.

The process for expanding the airport started in 2012 with a 20-year master plan that detailed future growth, said Port of Pasco Commissioner Ron Reimann. The 110,000-square-foot facility will double in size.

“The phased approach has allowed us to operate the airport with minimal interruption to operations,” he said.

Passengers on some flights will be able to deplane via a new jet bridge and make their way down a gradual ramp to ground level.

They can then pick up their bags at the new baggage claim area, which will eventually also have rental car counters.

“It’s all new equipment,” Foraker said. “It should be quieter and a bit more efficient.”

Some parts of the concourse are still works in progress.

Not yet ready is the restaurant to be operated by Tailwind concessions. Foraker said “grab and go” food will be available temporarily, with the kitchen expected to open in October.

Port of Kennewick Commissioner Tom Moak, one of several elected officials on Tuesday’s tour, praised the new facility.

“It’s very subdued, but very comfortable, and hopefully, something the community will enjoy,” he said later.

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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